Lawrence University Remembers the Holocaust in Multimedia Symposium

As the remaining voices of Holocaust survivors grow fewer and more far between, Lawrence University will examine that dark moment in human history May 11-13 in a wide-ranging, interdisciplinary and multimedia symposium entitled “Austrian Jews: Exile and the Holocaust.”
The symposium will bring together Lawrence students, faculty and the larger community in a far-ranging examination of both the history and present-day implications of the Holocaust.

The timing of the symposium is tied to the anniversary of the end of World War II on May 8, 1945 and to the annual April 19 “Day of Remembrance,” which each year commemorates the Jewish genocide at the hands of the Nazis. All symposium events are free and open to the public.

Survivor Stories
Highlighting the program will be the first-person experiences shared by four Holocaust survivors who fled Vienna, Austria in 1938 to escape the Nazis. Curtis Brown from Neenah, and Anne Kelemen, Gerda Lederer and Renee Wiener, all from New York City, will share their personal accounts of topics covering life in Austria leading up to the war, escape via the Kinder Transport, working with the French Underground and life during the war in the labor camps.
Brown, Kelemen and Lederer star in the 1999 award-winning documentary on the Viennese emigration, “Abschied ein Leben Lang” (A Life-Long Farewell),” one of three films that will be shown during the symposium. Wiener was recognized in 2010 for her World War II work in the French Resistance with the Insignia of the Legion of Honor in a special awards ceremony at the French Consulate General in New York City.

“The chances of our students ever speaking to a Holocaust survivor are getting slimmer very rapidly,” said Professor of Music Catherine Kautsky, who organized the symposium. “It seems more and more urgent to give these survivors a forum in which to speak out, particularly to the younger generations of students for whom World War II may seem like ancient history.”

The inspiration for the symposium grew out of a series of round-robin letters circulated by Kautsky’s 90-year old father, John Kautsky, and a group of his Viennese high school peers, all of whom were forced by the Nazis to emigrate from Vienna in 1938.

The letters chronicle the experience of leaving their homeland and establishing citizenship in new countries. The letters are now being published, generating considerable interest in the United States, Austria and Germany. They will be featured in a presentation by Jacqueline Vansant, professor of German at the University of Michigan-Dearborn, including footage of Kautsky’s father discussing the letters, followed by clips of a present-day boy at the very same school reading from the very same letters during a December 2011 ceremony at that high school.

Read details here.


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